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Last Saturday (14 May) marked 10 years since we disembarked from our first ever cruise which was an Eastbound Transatlantic on Jewel of the Seas. I thought it would be nice to look back at our first impressions of what was a life changing experience.

At about midday on the 30th April 2006 we left The Ramada Inn, Fort Lauderdale bound for Port Everglades where we were to meet up Mrs W’s sister and parents on board the Jewel of the Seas. The cruise was a gift from Mrs W’s parents because basically they were just so eager to share the experience with us. Both were seasoned cruisers and it was their primary method of getting backwards and forwards to Florida where they had bought a home to spend their winters. It just so happens that the two times of the year when they come and go just coincided with the repositioning of ships from Europe to the Caribbean.

When we were initially invited to go we didn’t think it would be for us, there was much discussion and eventually we decided we should give it a go. So several months later when we finally arrived at the cruise terminal and got our first view of the ship we really had no idea how much our lives were going to change.
I recall that we boarded near the atrium and I was immediately taken aback by the size of this big open space in the middle of a ship. I also remember one of the bar staff trying to tempt me to buy a welcome aboard cocktail with a special souvenir glass. Some things never change!

Jewel of the Seas Atrium

After our initial astonishment we set off to explore what on first appearance seemed to be a huge vessel and we wondered how we would ever remember our way around. I was totally awestruck by the organisation and politeness of the crew, the cleanliness and immaculate condition of everything and just the whole set up on board the ship. We just couldn’t believe we were actually going to cross the Atlantic surrounded by such luxury. I marvelled at all the food on display in the Windjammer and didn’t  (and still don’t) know what to put on my plate first. Thank heavens for the dining room where the portions are decided for you!

Our first sail-away from Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, USA

I think our only real concern was how we would react to the motion of the ship and whether we would fall foul to the dreaded sea sickness especially as we were going to be crossing the Atlantic Ocean with 5 straight sea days. The time was drawing close to when we would find out…..
Finally after we had set sail and were at sea for the first time, I remember being totally surprised how steady the ship felt. All sorts of notions go through your mind when trying to perceive what it would actually feel like. I never imagined that cruising would grip me the way it has. I just love being on a ship and at sea.

Looking back at Florida on what was a life changing day

We have since cruised every year with the exception of 2008 and if time, funds would permit us to, then we would cruise even more. A world cruise is something we have considered in the future but for now I am just going to have to be content with a few weeks here and there.  😀

So 21 cruises later or to put it another way 201 nights onboard ship, can’t be all bad for our first 10 years of cruising. Here’s to the next 10 and lets hope there are no repeats of 2008.

 

Costa have recently announced that they are revamping their loyalty programme, and the changes have not gone down too well with some of their older and loyal customers. There are quite a few changes with regards to the way the loyalty points are gained but the biggest change which has angered many is that only your last 3 years cruises will count towards the total. For example if you are currently Gold Pearl having sailed with them for many years but have not sailed in the last 3 your membership level will go back to the starter level.

The new CostaClub has just been unveiled, just in time for the celebration of CostaClub’s 15th birthday. Beginning early 2016, a new program with a new look and more amenities is open to you, one that will truly amaze you.
The new CostaClub is designed to bring you even closer to the heart of Italy’s Finest. You will find excitement with amenities that are unique, for only you to enjoy; those that will reward you for your passion for Costa Cruises.
Now, two new clubs are announced, for a total of six for Guests to aspire to achieve! The Club Ambra is now open as a welcome for Guests who have never traveled with Costa. Here you will find the introduction to the CostaClub and learn about the amenities that expand as you reach new Clubs. Also introduced, the Club Perla Diamante is the hightest level of the CostaClub, the epitome of exclusive service and hospitality.
Take a look and see, there will be even more opportunities to collect points that entitle you to additional benefits.
This is the new CostaClub. A world that makes you special, and together with your CostaClub friends, you will enjoy the unique thrill of travelling with Costa.

The basic number of points awarded for each cruise day will be 100 as in the past. Now there will be extra daily points awarded based on the type of cabin you are travelling in:
100 points per day for inside cabins, 150 points for oceanview cabins, 175 points for balcony cabins, Premium cabin guests still have their points doubled, meaning they receive 200 points for inside cabins, 300 for oceanview cabins and 350 for balcony cabins. Suite Guests will receive a total of 450 points a day.
But that’s not all: the points for onboard purchases are doubled, meaning you earn 2 for each $/Euro spent, including purchases made on the website www.costacruises.com before departure. This is also valid for onboard purchases made during cruises that are purchased at a special promotional rate. As in the past however, the cost of the cruise ticket for these cruises does not afford Members these points.

Prior to the change my points total looked like this and placed me in the Pearl tier.

Club:   Pearl
Issue Date: 03/05/2010
Expiration date: 13/09/2018

Ship Departure Date Cruise points On board points
Costa Magica 04 May 2007 1400 320
Costa Serena 25 April 2010 700 160
Costa Atlantica 19 September 2011 1300 560
Costa Pacifica 12 April 2013 700 120
Costa Fortuna 28 March 2014 3600 960
Costa Deliziosa 13 September 2015 1400 320
Total Points 11540

With the new CostaClub the points you have accumulated will be valid for three (3) years. Each year the points you have accumulated in the previous three years will be valid, applicable for all Club levels, from the Acquamarina Club to the Perla Diamante Club. Beginning in 2016, for current Members all the points from the last three years (valid for the Club you now belong to) will be recalculated according to the new rules. This means you may be immediately awarded more points, for cruises taken between 2013 and 2015. Many of you will instantly be part of a higher Club. If the new points total means you find yourself in a lower club, you’ll be guaranteed a place in the club you are currently a member of for six months, if you take a cruise within that period. So, until June 2016 you can carry on enjoying the new privileges of your current Club and at the same time become eligible for the new CostaClub program.

 

After the conversion was completed I logged on to their website to see what my new points total was and I now have 12685 points (still Pearl) and its telling me I need 315 Points to reach Perla Oro Clubstatus. There is very little chance of me reaching that tier let alone me taking another cruise to claim the benefits. So eventually my points will disappear to nothing and should I ever decide to cruise with Costa again I will go back to the beginning.

Ship Date Cruise points Onboard points Flight points Total points
Costa Deliziosa 13 September 2015 2450 514 0 2964
Costa Fortuna 28 March 2014 6300 1344 500 8144
Costa Pacifica 12 April 2013 1225 352 0 1577
Total Points 12685

Its been great cruising with Costa but I think this is now the end of a beautiful relationship. The new Costa Club set up is not a deal breaker, it only adds to making their product less desirable than others. They have never been the easiest company to deal with and now they have decided to not use agents in the UK we would have nobody to act as a go between in the event of a dispute. It is this last matter that has broken the camels back for us and I no longer want to take the risk of booking with them and the potentially having something not go according to plan (which seems to happen often with Costa) and then have no come back.

Arrivederci Costa

After my disappointing purchase with the Blackberry Playbook I have now splashed out again in an attempt to provide better posts and photos while doing live blog reports. This time after some proper researching I have bought a Google/Asus Nexus 7 tablet and I am happy to report that after a few experiments it does exactly what I need it to. 🙂
This now means I can now send photos from my camera using the Eye-Fi card (even without WiFi) using direct mode and I can write and edit posts prior to logging onto any WiFi. The WordPress Android App even resizes the images for me so they are the correct size for displaying on the blog. It is a really great piece of equipment and I kick myself for not buying one of these in the first place.

Asus-Google Nexus 7

Cruising Mates Forum is always looking for new innovative ways of indulging its members and has recently come up with an easy-to-use flipbook of Cabin reviews which has been compiled using 24 of the best member’ cabin reviews from the forum. Its members were recently invited to add reviews and photos from any cabins they had experienced and the results were enough to compile the e-book.

It is an attractive and easy-to-use flipbook entitled: Cruising Mates Cabin Reviews. The book is a free-to-use resource and provides a convenient way to browse a wide variety of different cabin grades on different ships.

The book can found by following the link below –

Cruising Mates Cabin Reviews

One final note that I would like to add, the book contains no ads whatsoever; it’s simply a resource for sharing and what’s more there are even plans for more to follow so watch this space for details or why not just pop over there and join in the banter.

Screen Shot of Cruising Mates Cabin Reviews Flip-book

Screen Shot of Cruising Mates Cabin Reviews Flip-book

A recent acquisition for my blog has been a proper domain name, so now in the address bar you will notice that it reads www.wansbroughs-cruise-blog.me.uk.  I have set up a redirection so there is no need to change your bookmark as it will automatically bring you straight to the new domain.

I have been busy transferring all the files and data to its new location and the good news is that this is now over and everything seems to be in order with nothing lost.  I have also made the decision to change to a different WordPress theme which according its makers is supposed to be more tablet friendly, the reason for doing this is because of the ever increasing amount of people now owning a tablet or smart phone and essentially because I believe in the future it will be the way that most people will browse the internet and I want the blog to look good and behave correctly for people using these platforms to view my blog.
I still have a few things that need tweaking but am confident that everything still looks good and works as it should do.

All I need now is a cruise to test it all out.

Recently, I noticed that Blackberry had reduced the price of their Playbook quite considerably so I succumbed to temptation and went out and bought one. The Playbook is a 7″ tablet which was first released to the world in April 2011 and I had high hopes it being a real asset for posting to the blog, especially as it has a mini USB port which I had assumed would enable me to plug my camera directly into it and use to transfer photos from it instead of the ones from my ailing Blackberry Torch. It also has a nice big screen which should make it easier to check the quality of the photos.

Unfortunately this wasn’t to be the case. The only immediate option to add photos to the Playbook was via the Blackberry Desktop Manager which involves using a computer. Not what I was hoping for and not any good when you are out and about. After doing much research, I discovered a possible work round which I have yet to try out. It involves using a SD card for the camera which has built in WiFi, it is called an Eye-Fi memory card.When in your camera, it enables you to link directly with you PC or tablet and transfer the photos across. There is even the facility to use “direct mode” which will transfer the pictures across even if you are not near a hotspot.

I have also installed a WordPress app for the Playbook after anticipating that it would be the same format as on the Blackberry Torch which is really easy to use. It is similar but sadly it is isn’t quite the same and in fact there doesn’t seem to be as many settings either. Despite all this I am going to try and give it a go mainly because I want to try and improve on the standard of photos being added to the blog while I am out and about.
The browser on the Playbook is very good and provided there is a good enough WiFi connection I should be able to log on and check the dashboard and approve any comments that come my way. There are lots of other bits and pieces on the Playbook which we will also make good use of and I am sure it will be a welcome addition to the rest of our travelling gadgets.

I have recently installed a new plug-in which was added to help keep you up to date with all the new posts that I make. If you look in the bottom right corner you will see a little tab marked * Follow . If you click on this tab it will reveal a subscription form where you can add your e-mail address. Once you have registered and verified your details you will automatically receive an e-mail notification whenever I make a new post.

I have set this to send a notification once a day so as not to bombard you with e-mails when I am posting regularly when away on a cruise. If you are receiving this message now it is because you have already registered a comment to my blog in the past. If this is the case then I would like to take the opportunity to say thank you for doing so.

I would also like to reassure you that your details remain confidential and will not be passed on to anyone else.

I have upgraded my old Blackberry Bold to a Torch 9800. It has a much bigger screen and a better camera. Hopefully it will mean better photos from the field. It also comes with a touch screen and I have added the WordPress App which means I have control of the blog while I am away from my PC.

I am not a big fan of touch screen keyboards and the Torch comes with the option of using both. I am eager to now put this phone through its paces and see how much of an improvement it we be from my old Bold.

My Blackberry Torch

As a visitor to a couple of the cruise based forums on the net, I have recently been made aware of and have a joined a new independent one which has been set up and run by one of our fellow cruisers.

It goes by the name of http://www.cruisingmates.co.uk and you will find that it is a far less formal kind of place than some of the other forums, many of which are backed or supported by the cruise lines and TA’s. The emphasis being that it is about being fun community with a common interest at heart.
You find lots of chat about ships and ports of call, but also talk about politics, religion, and fun stuff as well.
Why not pop and give it a try, you never know it might become your first port of call when logging on to the net.

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